Both a practicing artist and a Lieutenant Colonel in the Saudi Army, Abdulnasser Gharem is one of the forefront contemporary artists in Saudi Arabia, known for his intellectual courage and innovative use of materials.
Transit V, from Gharem's Restored Behaviour series of 'Stamp Paintings', depicts a plane taking off (or landing) framed by an Islamic, ornamental pattern which has been painted on a bed of thousands of individual letter rubber stamps. A reference to themes of bureaucracy that are particularly poignant post 9/11, the underlying rubber stamps, in a succession of non-sensical letters that conceal hidden messages in both Arabic and English are two-fold: it references the rubber stamp that Gharem must use every day as a Lieutenant to validate endless security documents amongst other classified paperwork that crosses his desk. Simultaneously they provide social commentary against this bureaucracy, which Gharem believes that, post 9/11, has become an impediment to the development of Saudi Arabian, (if not Arab) society and people.
The passenger airplane is a symbol of globalization: in it we feel both an opportunity and a threat. The opportunity to see different places and the anticipation of new beginnings juxtaposed against an impending sense of danger. In effect, the bright yellow line under the aeroplane thus symbolises the path one takes as individuals as well as a culture, a society and a religion - whether we follow a straight path, or whether we even trust in the notion of the path at all - It is up to us to choose how to interpret what our course will be. Within this scope, Transit V refers to Gharem's earlier work The Path (Al Siraat), first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2009.
In its multi-layered composition, Transit V, thus tackles several dimensions of conceptual thinking contrasted with the reality of bureaucratic practice - a metaphor for Abdulnasser Gharem himself.
CAPTION: Al Siraat (The Path), photographic print, 2007. Courtesy of EOA.PROJECTS.